/by Rachel Marsh/
A couple of weeks back I asked in the Shortbread Writer, ‘As writing is traditionally an indoor sport, and with summer and all its sunshiny glory ahead of us, how do you get motivated to write?’
After that newsletter, I began to really think about that question. How do authors get motivated to write? Especially when much more interesting activities are on offer.
Sometimes this motivation can cross over into inspiration, and other times it’s as simple as sheer will power.
I received a number of verbal responses from friends with whom I have had this discussion. My friend Kathleen said that she writes in the summer because, as a teacher, it’s the only time she has free, and she feels she must make the most of her time off. While my friend Paul said that he writes during the summer because he ‘has to’. Just because the sun is out doesn’t mean the ideas disappear.
For me, the motivation to stay inside and write despite the call of the summer sun is rooted in my background as a postgraduate student. Years upon years of working independently, with the pressure of academic judgement, has taught me to ignore the beauty of the outdoors and immerse myself in writing. However, sometimes (okay, actually quite often), I find myself being called by blue skies, green trees and warm breezes. No matter how hard I try, I cannot focus, and before I know it, I’m on a beach-blanket lying in the sun.
However, there are days — despite the warm weather, despite the BBQs, despite the sound of lawnmowers — that I forgo summer activities, hunker down and get the novel written. As I mentioned, much of my writing ‘work ethic’ stems from years working on a research thesis, but I am also motivated to write because of the constant internal nagging which tells me that ‘the work simply needs to be done’. If I want that novel finished, that short story written, or that play edited, I need to put in the work. And, between a full time job, my working with ShortbreadStories, and a boyfriend who prefers that I don’t ignore him too much, something has to give. Unfortunately, that something is summer leisure time.
The only other option is to only write during the dark days of winter. This does work for many people, but not for me as procrastination is as easy to do in the winter as it is during the summer. There are holiday parties, and big Sunday roasts, and ski trips and hot toddies, and all kinds of winter fun. So, as you can see, for me procrastination abounds in all seasons; therefore, the only way I can manage to motivate myself at any point in the year is to remember, ‘If I want the outcome (ie. the completed novel, the short story collection, the produced play), I have to exchange some social activities for writing time.’
But, before this begins to sound too much like a lecture, let me pose a question to the ShortbreadStories community. ‘When your days are past, and you are looking back at your life, which would you prefer? A series of completed manuscripts or memories spent with family and friends?’
There’s no right or wrong answer to that question, and only you know the answer.